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Bhut Jolokia: Origin, Uses and Commercial Cultivation of Ghost Chili

Bhut Jolokia is a type of chili grown majorly in the northeastern states of India. The chili is one of the hottest ones currently available in the world. The uses include processing dried chilies, extraction of oleoresin and capsaicin etc.

Chintu Das
The Spicy - Ghost Chili

Several Initiatives are taken up by the Assam government to boost production of Bhut Jolokia in the state. In this series, the Department of Agriculture, Assam together with Sikkim State Cooperative Supply and Marketing Federation Ltd (SIMFED) will organize Expo one - Organic North East from February 3rd to 5th, 2023. Numerous organic fruits and vegetables grown in Northeast including Bhut Jolokia will be showcased during the expo. 

Facts about Bhut Jolokia: 

  • Bhut Jolokia or Ghost Chili is more than 400 times hotter than Jalapeno. 

  • Bhut Jolokia has been used to build bombs and grenades. 

  • Used by villagers to keep animals away from their homes and property by applying it on walls, fences etc. 

  • The“Bhut” in the name means ghost in “Assamese” language. 

  • Bhut Jolokia has a normal range of 855,000 to 1,041,427 SHU. 

  • Bhut Jolokia or Ghost Chili is called by many other names such as Naga Jolokia, Bih jolokia, Nagahari, Raja Mircha, Borbih Jolokia etc. 

Introduction to Ghost Chili: 

Bhut Jolokia or Ghost Chili is by far the hottest chili produced by India. Bhut Jolokia has been recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the hottest chili of the world in the year 2007. The current record holder is “Carolina Reaper”. 

This famous Ghost Chili, which means “Bhut Jolokia” in Assamese language is found in the northeastern states of India. When ripe, the chili is around 2.5 to 3.5 inches long and 1 to 1.5 inches wide. The color varieties include red, yellow and orange. 


Origin of Bhut Jolokia: 

The chili originated from the state of Assam, which is situated in the north eastern region of India. Along with tea cultivation, Assam’s topography also supports ghost chili cultivation. The temperature ranges between 20 to 30 degrees between day and night, and the humidity is around 70% perfect for ghost chili. 

Back in the days, villagers used to apply ghost chili into ropes and use that as a fence for their homes in order to keep herds of elephants away.  

Commercial cultivation of Bhut Jolokia:  

Earlier cultivation used to happen in the state of Assam only, however commercial cultivation has started in the neighboring states of Nagaland and Manipur as well. Assam has around 30% of people living below the poverty line. And with the declining demand for the tea industry of the area, cultivation of ghost pepper can be economically beneficial for the state.  

The Government of Assam is trying to boost the cultivation of Bhut Jolokia in the region by providing incentives to the farmers. The money is made available under the central government’s Horticulture Mission for North East fund. The local market price is minimal when compared to the export prices. Thousands of farmers from Baksa and Nagaon districts of Assam have already started cultivating Bhut Jolokia. Many pharma companies are trying to export Bhut Jolokia to foreign markets such as Australia, UK, USA etc. 

Growing Plants: 

The plant height varies between 1.2 to 2 meters and generally depends on the pot size and spacing. The plant leaves are kind of small and green in colour. Proper plant growth requires high levels of warmth and humidity and soil pH level should be between 6 to 7. The plant takes around 100 days to flower and another 100 more days till harvesting. 

Diseases and Pest Control:

Diseases related to Bhut Jolokia can be fungal, bacterial or viral infection. Fungal infection leads to rotting of fruits, stems and collar caused by Colletotrichum capsici, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum and Rhizoctonia solani. Bacterial infections can happen in the later stages of growth and can be caused by R. solanacearum bacteria.

Viral diseases happen mostly after 2 to 3 weeks after transplanting. Some of the diseases include Mosaic, Leaf and Stem necrosis, leaf curl disease caused by Cucumber mosaic virus, Potato virus Y, Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus and Chilli leaf curl virus. These diseases gets transmitted easily during grafting.

Pest control techniques include treatment of the seedlings with imidacloprid 17.8 SL for half an hour before transplanting plus growing okra as a border crop. Continue spraying imidacloprid 17.8 SL after 20 days of transplanting. 4 sprays in an interval of 15 days is very effective . Treatment reduces the overall chances of developing viral diseases and keeps pests like coccinellids and spiders away from the plantation.

Bhut Jolokia: Market demand and profit:

Demand for Bhut Jolokia has risen in the recent past in not only Asian markets but also in the European markets. The European imports have increased by more than 2 folds and the major contributors causing this rise are Morocco and Turkey. Other countries include France, UK, Spain and Romania.

As far as the profits are concerned, an average farmer can cultivate around 1500 seedlings per bigha which is around 0.13 hectare of land. An average of 3 kilos of chili is yielded from each crop cycle and profit ranges from 20000 to 25000 per bigha of land. Locally the price per kg ranges from Rs 300 within season and increases to Rs 600 for off-season. For international exports, the price reaches staggering 1800 to 2000 rupees per kilo. The profit margin is very high however proper management should be implemented for better results.

Uses of Bhut Jolokia: 

Ghost Chili is used for preparing chili sauce because of its intense heat and aroma. The same can be dried and used in the form of powder. Native people of Northeast eat it fresh as an addition to their various local cuisines. 

Future of Bhut Jolokia: 

Bhut Jolokia has high concentrations of oleoresin and capsaicin. Demand is very high for both of these components in the local as well as international markets. In recent times, Chile is getting accepted more and more in the western markets like the US and Europe. Bhut Jolokia with its hotness will surely make its way into the international markets.  

In Assam, initiatives are already taken up to export products made from Ghost Chili to major European and US markets. Commercial Bhut Jolokia cultivation seems to be a lucrative option for the Indian farmers. In the future, Contract Farming can be one of the options to go for farmers and other interested parties. 

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